DDN_May_2024 DDN May 2024 | Page 16



There are strong links between problem alcohol use and suicide . So why are people still unable to access the help they need , asks Holly Wood

This month , WithYou published our latest report with our partners at the Suicide Prevention Consortium ( SPC ). The project , Exploring experiences of accessing support for alcohol issues and suicidal ideation , develops on a recurring theme from our previous work – that there are still many barriers stopping people from accessing mental health and alcohol services .

We previously researched the link between suicide and alcohol in our 2022 project , Insights from experience : alcohol and suicide . There is extensive evidence of a complex relationship , including an increased risk of suicidal
behaviour following alcohol consumption , as well as cooccurring alcohol misuse and mental health issues over longer periods of time . According to the National Confidential Enquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health ’ s 2023 annual report , among people in contact with mental health services in England who died by suicide between 2010 and 2020 , 48 per cent had a history of alcohol misuse .
IMPROVING ACCESS Increasing the number of people accessing support is one of the most pressing issues for treatment providers . Around four out of five people experiencing alcohol dependence are not in treatment , and around two thirds of people who die by suicide are
not in touch with mental health services a year before they die .
This work is especially timely following the government ’ s commitment to the ‘ no wrong door ’ approach in last year ’ s Suicide prevention strategy for England . No wrong door , which means that someone reaching out with suicidal thoughts or feelings receives timely support no matter what type of service they speak to , is particularly important in relation to cooccurring mental health needs and alcohol issues .
One of the most important parts of any SPC project is that we focus on the perspectives of people with lived experience . We recognise that support pathways must be shaped by people with lived experience , as they are
best placed to tell us what does and does not work for them . For this project , we wanted to hear from people who had experience of suicidal thoughts , feelings , or acts , as well as issues with alcohol . To do this , we conducted a questionnaire , and then invited five participants to be interviewed about their experiences in more detail .
CLEAR PATTERNS We asked participants about the different types of support they were offered and received for alcohol issues and suicidality . Clear patterns emerged from the interviews – it was evident that peer support networks and third sector services form a vital part of the support pathway . Many participants highlighted
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